Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Working With A Co-Author

James Patterson

Lesson time 12:42 min

When does James decide to use a co-author and is it a true collaboration? In this lesson, we meet two of his most trusted co-authors who share their process for making a collaboration truly successful.

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Topics include: How to find a great co-author • When to begin the collaboration • Make sure they know your voice • Communication is key • Encourage and coach them • Put them in the scene • Make it a true collaboration


Some people are not comfortable with this idea of co-authors or collaborating, and I think it's a much bigger deal than it is. So here's what I have to say to those people. Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Stephen King and Peter Strauss, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert and Sullivan, Woodward and Bernstein, Joel and Ethan Coen, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. What's great about working with co-writers is that you get two talents. Collaboration is a good thing. I know we have this thing about the American, we just go out and do everything by ourselves. And that's OK, but collaboration is really good. Combining strengths is really good. [CELLO SOLO] What I look for in a co-writer are people that can write convincing scenes, because the outline is going to lay out the scenes. Now we may add scenes. They may add scenes on their own, which is just fine. But they have to be able to write convincing scenes. We know what it's supposed to do. We knew what that scene in Honeymoon was supposed to do. We knew that it had to make us feel great about both of those main characters. So I'm looking for somebody, for people that can do that. Secondly, it has to be people that know that this is a James Patterson novel. It's going to be pace-y. It's going to be maybe faster than they would write their own work. It's going to really move along. And if they're comfortable doing that and like doing it and enjoy doing it. All the co-writers I think enjoy what they're doing, which is important. I think they look forward to getting up and writing this stuff. And it's important that I make them feel invested enough in each book. [CELLO SOLO] I love working with Jim. The process is terrific. I don't know how it works for other people or if we do it differently, but for me is fantastic. He gives me an outline and I read the outline and I get the story. And then I'm asked to contribute to the outline, because, as he says, you've got to write this stuff. So I really try to imagine how it's going to go during the length of the book. And I send him back some notes and then he agrees or disagrees and then we have a working plan for the entire novel. And the way that works for me is they will get the outline. I then try to-- I want them involved in terms of contributing to the outline for a couple reasons. One is that they might have some good ideas. And secondly, it invests them in the process. Even if they only add a small amount, it's incredible how they feel invested and they'll go like, that fixed everything. And maybe it did, maybe didn't, but the important thing is in their heads they're invested. [CELLO SOLO] But one of the things that's interesting about co-writers or even people writing a series, once the voice of the characters are there, you'll find so...

About the Instructor

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.

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James Patterson

James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.

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